How can I transfer my UK pension to Ireland? If you’re considering this, all you need to get started are the details of your current pension scheme, and I can help with the rest of this guide. Find out more about whether and how to transfer UK pensions to Ireland, and which overseas pension scheme could be the right solution for you.
Also consider: How to transfer a UK pension to Australia as an expat
Where do I begin in moving my UK pension to Ireland?
First and foremost you will need to have your existing pension information to hand. I can then collate this for you, handling all the paperwork. I will also take care of all of the following requirements I’ve outlined in the checklist below:
Checklist for transferring a UK pension to Ireland
- Collate existing UK pensions
- Request a CETV (Cash Equivalent Transfer Value)
- Conduct a cost and performance comparison
- Identify the best solution in Ireland
- Submit transfer request documentation to the existing and new provider
Talk to me, Dan Ward. I can help you protect your UK pension income, and give you advice on a foreign pension income.
A UK pension company may not allow you to keep your pension in the UK. My regulated advice can help you protect your pension benefits and enjoy long term financial security.
Whether you are an Irish national looking to return home after building up pension savings in the UK or a British ex-pat, here’s what you need to know about transferring your UK pension to Ireland.
The advice requirement
You must seek professional advice about moving your UK pension to Ireland. This statutory requirement protects your retirement savings from poor advice.
However, your local financial adviser can only provide this when they have the additional overseas qualifications and licenses required for an Ireland transfer.
As an internationally qualified and regulated financial adviser, I am authorised to advise you on a UK pension transfer to Ireland.
In addition to safeguarding your assets in the Irish market, I can take care of the above checklist for you. I complete the transfer options form, handle all other paperwork and ensure you pay only the lowest possible fees or tax charges.
Which UK pension scheme do you have?
First, verify your plan type to see if transferring your UK pension to Ireland is possible.
Many pensions are eligible for transfer to an overseas scheme in Ireland, but there are always a few exceptions.
I’ll briefly explain some of the most common forms of UK pension plans.
For example, you may have built up savings through an employer’s occupational pension scheme or a small self-administered scheme.
You could also have a personal plan, such as a stakeholder or self-invested personal pension plan (SIPP).
Suppose you have been employed in the UK anytime since 2012. You should have at least one UK pension because it has been compulsory since then for employers to auto-enrol their employees onto a pension plan and contribute towards it.
These will be either a ‘final salary’, also known as a defined benefit scheme, while some employers offer defined contribution schemes.
Your pension contributions to either of these schemes are eligible for UK tax relief at your marginal income tax rate.
Defined Benefit Scheme
If you’ve had a career in the UK public sector, you must always speak to your UK pension provider first. Their advice is vital and protects the guaranteed pension income you have worked so hard for.
Your pension is likely to be a ‘final salary’ plan.
The retirement income from such schemes is usually unfunded, meaning you have no pension pot to move. It is not based on how much you have paid in. Instead, your pension benefits are paid for by the taxpayer or, rarely, your private employer.
In these cases, attempting to transfer your UK pension to Ireland is seldom possible or wise.
Speak with your UK provider or a local financial advisor if you have an occupational plan like this and are considering a UK pension transfer to Ireland.
Defined Contribution Scheme
Your employer may have set up a defined contribution (DC) scheme with a UK provider. In this case, they will usually deduct your contributions from your salary before tax.
You also get free contributions to this fund from your employer.
Your UK scheme provider invests the pension fund, and its performance significantly impacts how much money you will receive at retirement age.
Other factors affecting the size of your individual pot within the fund include how much you have contributed and for how long.
Small Self-Administered Scheme SSAS
Are you a director or senior executive of a private company? If so, you may also have a small self-administered scheme (SSAS).
Up to 11 individuals can participate in the scheme, and each will usually become a trustee.
The trustees decide where and how to invest the pension fund. With an SSAS, there is usually no pension provider.
An SSAS allows for more control and opens up a broader range of investment options than a typical provider can offer.
A personal pension is any you open independently of your workplace. It is another DC scheme, sometimes called a ‘money purchase’ plan.
Insurance companies initially offered them, but you may also have arranged one with a bank or building society.
You should get an annual statement summarising how much money you have and how well it has performed.
Two of the most common are stakeholder and self-invested personal pensions (SIPPs).
With a stakeholder plan, all charges are statutorily capped at 1% to 1.5%, although this is even lower with some providers, thus making it an affordable choice.
Self-Invested Personal Pension Plan, SIPP
SIPPs work in a broadly similar way to the other types of personal plans, but they give you greater investment flexibility with more control over how and when you access your funds.
Your options include but are not limited to unit trusts, investment trusts, commercial property, company trusts and land.
If you currently have a few pension pots, consolidating them into a single SIPP can be an excellent idea. It is a tax-efficient investment strategy and often makes transferring your UK pension easier later.
Why should I transfer my UK pension to Ireland?
Here are some reasons you might find it more convenient to transfer your pension when retiring in Ireland.
Standard Fund Threshold
Both the UK and Ireland have traditionally set limits on the maximum retirement savings you can accrue.
In April 2023, the UK government removed the lifetime allowance of £1,073,100. Still, there is every possibility of a new administration reinstating it following the next election. A pension transfer can protect you from tax charges associated with this.
Irish Revenue caps the standard fund threshold (SFT) at two million Euros. When you transfer to a recognised overseas pension scheme, provided you are a tax resident in Ireland, it does not count towards this limit.
Fluctuating exchange rates can eat away at your retirement income. If you transfer the entire fund to Ireland, you can receive your money in Euros rather than converting from GBP every time.
The UK has now officially left the EU, and the transition period provided by the withdrawal agreement ended on January 1 2021.
You can safely transfer a pension to Ireland and receive benefits in Euros.
UK Tax Implications
Regardless of how many tax years you spend in or out of the country, you should not face additional UK tax charges if you choose not to transfer. Contact me, and I can walk you through the UK tax implications of all your options, including estate planning.
Discuss with a financial advisor whether your beneficiaries are more likely to live in the UK or Ireland when they inherit your estate. Probate will be more straightforward if your pension is in the same jurisdiction.
How do I choose an overseas scheme?
Your choice is generally between a qualifying recognised overseas pension scheme or an international SIPP.
Each allows you to withdraw a tax-free lump sum upon minimum retirement age, currently 55 but rising to 58. You should do this while still a UK tax resident, though.
Until recently, when your fund was near the maximum pension amount, a QROPS was the wisest choice. Although this lifetime allowance is not currently in force, it could shortly return.
A knowledgeable international financial advisor can guide you on the best scheme.
International Self-Invested Personal Pension, iSIPP
International SIPPs are structurally identical to domestic SIPPs and regulated in the same way by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), giving you security and peace of mind.
They are incredibly flexible and the ideal choice if you are considering a phased approach to retirement, unsure which country you want to live in permanently, are in ill health or simply enjoy complete control over your funds.
You can take a tax-free lump sum when you are 55 (shortly rising to 58) whilst still a UK tax resident.
iSIPPs can be quicker and cheaper to set up than QROPS.
Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes, QROPS
A regularly updated list of QROPS providers authorised to accept pension transfers is on the HMRC website.
Irish Revenue does not apply the Standard Fund Threshold (SFT) when you transfer your pension to Ireland via a QROPS buyout bond with an Irish registered life company. Only retirement savings from income earned in Ireland are taken into account for the SFT.
You can withdraw a tax-free lump sum upon reaching pension age in the same way as an iSIPP. However, once you begin drawing an income from your QROPS you cannot contribute to it further.
After the transfer, you can withdraw the entire fund as taxable cash, choose between an annuity or investment in a post-retirement investment platform such as an Approved Retirement Fund.
You could face penalties on unauthorised payments depending on where you are during the tax year when receiving benefits from your QROPS. This may apply to up to five tax years earlier.
A pension transfer to a QROPS buyout bond can be more costly and complex than a pension transferred to an international SIPP. Until recently, it was worth it when your funds were close to the lifetime allowance.
You can always ask me for help deciding which of these two options is best.
Will I pay tax on a transfer overseas?
You will usually only be taxed on pension transfers to QROPS based within the European Union if you move and become a tax resident in a country outside the European economic area.
An international SIPP is more flexible and does not trigger a tax charge when you move.
Lump sum withdrawals will be treated as taxable cash by the Revenue in Ireland.
If you have been a UK tax resident in the last six tax years, when withdrawing or transferring benefits from your QROPS, there will be some tax implications to consider.
Tax rules concerning income from pension benefits vary worldwide and usually depend on your tax residency status; I can help you with this wherever you choose to live.
There is a 25% overseas transfer charge on a QROPS unless the transfer is to your employers occupational pension scheme, or to your country of residence, or within the European Economic Area Pension limits. There are limits in both the UK and Ireland as to how much you can save into a pension. Anything outside these limits may be liable to tax. This is referred to as the Lifetime Allowance in the UK.
A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available. Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits.
Overseas pension transfers can be complex. Make sure you take financial advice before you transfer your funds.